Feeling guilty about that burger? Eat some wild blueberries to 'undo' the damage of a high-fat diet
By Madlen Davies for MailOnline
• Bilberries are like blueberries but more acidic and grown in the wild
• They lower blood pressure and prevent inflammation in the body's cells
• This is because they contain high levels of disease fighting polyphenols
A handful of bilberries a day could help reduce the impact of a high-fat diet, scientists have found.
Eating the small, blue, flat-topped fruit – the wilder, more acidic version of a blueberry – diminishes the harmful effects of eating a lot of fat.
For the first time, the berries – which are grown in the wild in the north of England and are a key part of the Nordic diet – were shown to have beneficial effects on both blood pressure and inflammation.
A handful of bilberries – the wilder, more acidic version of a blueberry – could help reduce the damaging effects of a high-fat diet, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response and is initially beneficial, but can cause several conditions and diseases in the long term.
The researchers believe the beneficial health effects of bilberries are due to high levels of polyphenols, a disease-fighting chemical component significantly higher in bilberries than in commercially-cultivated blueberries.
As part of the study, carried out by the University of Eastern Finland, mice were fed high-fat diet for a period of three months.
Some of the mice were also fed either 5 per cent or 10 per cent of freeze-dried bilberries in the diet.
The researchers assessed the effects of the diets by looking at levels of inflammation in cells.
Obese people have higher levels of inflammation, and even low levels are often associated with obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as is high blood pressure.
They measured inflammation levels by looking at cytokines, substances produced from white blood cells which trigger the body’s immune response. High levels are a marker of inflammation.
The researchers also measured levels of glucose in the blood, as high levels can lead to diabetes, and insulin sensitivity – whether the body is sensitive to the hormone which breaks down sugar.
Lastly, they measured blood pressure and weight gain.
These are all factors which increase the risk of obesity-related diseases.
They found mice on the high-fat diet gained significant amounts of weight.
Researchers noted detrimental changes in their glucose, fat metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation.
But bilberries, they found, diminished the inflammatory effects of the high-fat diet.
Bilberries also prevented the raised blood pressure caused by the fatty foods.
The researchers said the berries – which are an integral part of the Nordic diet – could be better utilised elsewhere in the world.
‘Bilberries are associated with several beneficial health effects and their use involves plenty of traditional wisdom,’ they wrote in the study.
They explained that this is probably due to high levels of the disease fighting chemicals polyphenols present in blueberries.
Specifically, polyphenols called anthocyanins – which give bilberries and blueberries their blue colour – are particularly beneficial.
A previous study presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s Experimental Biology 2011 meeting advised slimmers should start snacking on blueberries and other fruits with high levels of polyphenols as they slash the number of fat cells in the body by up to three-quarters.
They found polyphenols can cut the number of fat cells in the body by 73 per cent with a large dose and 27 per cent with the smallest dose. …